Japan to test rice for radiation2nd August 2011
Regional governments in Japan are planning to test local rice crops for radioactive caesium produced by the Fukushima nuclear accidents earlier this year.
Excessive levels of radiation have already been found in the country's water, seafood, beef, and dairy, as well as in other foods.
The Japanese government recently halted some shipments of beef cattle after meat from the same region was found to be too radioactive for human consumption.
Beef has also been pulled from the shelves of supermarkets for being above the government's exposure limits.
At least 14 local governments will test nearly half of the country's total rice output for radioactive caesium, halting any shipment of rice that exceeds 500 becquerels per kilo.
The Japanese health ministry said that continuous consumption of rice containing caesium above the government-imposed limit of 500 becquerels per kilo over a year would result in internal radiation exposure above 5 millisieverts.
One becquerel is equal to continuous radioactivity in which one nucleus decays per second.
Although Japan hardly imports any rice, producing over 8 million tonnes annually, it exported nearly 2000 tonnes in 2010.
Shigetoshi Abe, a Chiba prefectural government official, said that his regional government had been telling the central government that tests would be needed for Chiba as quickly as possible at least a month and a half ago.
Abe is not overly worried about the test results, but said Chiba would conduct extra tests tuned to even stricter radiation levels.
A Fukushima rice farmer said he was more worried about the effects of harmful rumours spreading concerning radiation, than about radiation itself.
Radiation continues to leak from the stricken plant, however.
The operator, Tepco, recently reported readings of 5 sieverts per hour leaking from one area of its plant, and readings of 10 sieverts per hour leaking from another.
According to the World Nuclear Association, 10 sieverts per hour is enough to kill a person within a few weeks of a single exposure.
Tomio Kawata, a fellow at Japan's nuclear waste management organisation, said that radiation leaks from the reactors had spread over 600 square kilometres.
In spite of recent upsurges in radiation at the nuclear complex, Tepco has not adjusted its recovery deadline.
The company still aims to achieve a so-called cold shutdown of the plant by the end of the year.
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